Writing a business plan can seem a daunting challenge. However, this skill is a vital requirement for any entrepreneur or business seeking to increase their chances of survival. Here is a list of our top tips for writing that winning plan:
- Write from the audience’s perspective
The starting point for any business plan should be the perspective of the audience. What is the purpose of the plan? Is it to secure funding? Is it to communicate the future plans for the company? You will probably want several version of your business plan – one for bankers or venture capitalists, one for individual investors, one for companies that may want to do a joint venture with you rather than fund you. For example, a potential investor will seek clear explanations highlighting the proposed return on their investment and time frames for getting their money back.
- Research the market thoroughly
You should perform market research and ensure that the plan includes reference to the market size, its predicted growth path and how they will gain access to this market. For example, a plan for an internet café will consider the local population, internet penetration rates, and predictions about whether it is likely to grow or decline.
- Understand the competition
It is essential to understand variety of business environment by understanding the competition, both its nature and their market share in the industry. Be prepared to name them and identify what makes you different from each of them.
- Attention to detail
Make the plan concise, but include enough detail to ensure the reader has sufficient information to make the decisions. This plan should reflect a sense of professionalism, with no spelling mistakes, realistic objectives, credible financial projection and accurate content.
- Be realistic with time and resources available.
Being overly optimistic with time and resources is a common error entrepreneurs make. Being realistic is important because it lends credibility to your presentation. Always assume things will be 15 percent longer than you anticipated.
- Document why your idea will work
Have others done something similar that was successful? Include all the variables that can have an impact on the result or outcome of your idea. Then show why some of the variables don’t apply to your situation or explain how you intend to overcome them or make them better.
- Review process
Once you have completed your plan, have it independently reviewed. Select someone detached from the process who can offer constructive criticism on all aspects of the plan. This review should prompt further questions that will need to be addressed in a revised draft.
- Implement the plan
Finally, a plan should always be viewed as a living document and contains specifics regarding dates, deadlines and specific responsibilities. It should be constantly reviewed and updated, as well as being used in regular “plan versus actual” discussions. Business relies heavily on people taking actions and being accountable for them. A winning business plan will help to ensure that the business is fully focused on what is required to achieve the company’s goals.